Help Wanted. No Museum Experience Necessary!

Do you love learning about your town and talking with people curious about Mendocino’s past? The Kelley House Museum is searching for some new folks to docent in the museum or offer walking tours of the town. The job is easier than you may think!

Juliet Way sports a Victorian outfit for her walking tours, but other guides wear whatever they put on that morning.

First, you get to meet interesting visitors from all over the world. Some of them have questions, some just want to wander through the house, and some prefer to soak up history while walking through the town. A museum docent welcomes people, asks them where they are from and whether this is their first visit to Mendocino, and from there, the conversation usually just takes off.

To talk a bit about the museum and the Kelley family, you don’t have to be a walking encyclopedia of Mendocino history. People have said “Oh, I’m not a historian and I haven’t lived here all my life.” But you’ll be trained by the museum staff and can shadow one of the experienced docents for a time or two.

Within arm’s reach in the museum are dozens of books and historical reviews that can be referred to for more information. During interludes with no visitors, there is no shortage of reading material. It’s a fun way to provide a bit of community service while sitting on a velvet couch in a sunny window. Everyone who can donate two four-hour shifts each month is welcome to be a docent. Our docents include retired teachers, librarians, doctors, artists, business executives, and other folks who like history and people.

If you prefer getting a bit of exercise while recapping the town’s history and showing off its architecture, consider becoming a walking tour guide. This is a great job for storytellers, and generally takes a couple hours on weekends and some weekday afternoons. Learning the highlights is easy thanks to the cue cards we provide. 

I asked some current docents why they like to do it. Rex Smith summed it up with, “I like history and amazing people come into this museum from all over the world.” Walking tour guide Juliet Way said, “I love watching faces light up when I weave the fascinating history of the town with the quirks of the people who lived here in the 1800’s. My goal is to deepen the tourist’s knowledge of this very unique place.” 

I have been a Kelley House docent for a decade and I never know what the next question will be. A visitor might ask, “Did the gold rush happen here?” or “How do I find my great-grandmother’s 1937 obituary?” Don’t worry about unanswerable questions. Simply write down the question, get a name and address, and tell the visitor that the curator or archivist will find the answer and be in touch. 

Contact the Kelley House Museum at info@kelleyhousemuseum.org if interested or for more information. The Kelley House Museum is open Thursday through Sunday, 11 AM – 3 PM. Walking tours of the historic district depart from the Kelley House regularly; for tour schedule, visit www.kelleyhousemuseum.org.